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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: The Short End of the Stick (02/20/14)

TITLE: Morning Coffee
By Frankie Kemp


Sara was early--on purpose, each move orchestrated according to the timetable of events set in the careful precision of her mind’s game plan. She had worked for weeks on the presentation. She had even brought donuts and a delicately-prepared tray of sliced fruit--that, too, calculated and checked off. Everything was ready, but a gnawing nibbled at her peace.

“Please, Lord,” her heart whispered as she moved to the counter to pour a cup of coffee. “I just want it to be easy. Something . . . please, Lord. This is important. I need focus. I showed up. Oh, help me want to be here . . .”

How it happened she didn’t know. From the counter to the table, three steps, nothing to stumble over but her own feet. Coffee she hadn’t even sipped splashed over the weeks of careful work. The steel barrier erected around her heart and mind melted. The shock was temporary, and two weeks’ worth of stuffed anguish took on an existence of its own, erupting from her throat. “No! I cannot believe this! Oh, God, oh, God, oh God . . . Really? Why?”

She watched the coffee run off the edge of the table and then crumbled into the closest chair. The crying came. She could not stop it. She didn’t care. She didn’t care if they found her like this, a wrinkled coffee mess of snot and tears. Grief commanded all of her knowing.

She didn’t hear the break room door open, and she was unaware of how much time passed before the blurry blue movement took shape. A wrinkled dark hand and a white rag spotted with amber, sure swipes of a cotton mop head, the tang of pine cleaner, and a throaty hummed melody called her senses back.

“I know that song,” Sara muttered, raising her head. “It’s my grandmother’s favorite.”

“Oh, Child, yes. ‘What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see,’” this time the words came, too. “Uh, uh, uhmm. Nothin’. Ain’t nothin’ better in this life than knowin’ that.”

New tears, came then, for Sara, in spite of her attempts to wipe them away with hands already bearing mascara scars.

“You’re here early this morning, Miss Sara.”

“Yeah. I wanted everything to be perfect to present my part of the project. I wanted to get it right so badly, Sally.” Sally nodded and maneuvered a chair to sit down facing Sara. Pulling tissues from her apron pocket, she began the tender work of absorbing the evidence of Sara’s grief. “Sally, do you ever feel like no matter what you do or how hard you try, you’re just going to fail—almost like God’s holding out on you or something?” Sara had said it before she could stop herself, wincing, expecting to be admonished for daring to question God.

“Darlin’ I think we have all felt like that from time to time.”

“It’s not just the project, Sally. It’s everything . . . Josh and I . . . we want a baby so badly, Sally, but it happened again. Two weeks ago. I miscarried. I don’t get it. Other people get to have babies and families. What are we doing wrong? Lately, it just seems like everything I want to happen never happens, and I’m just so disappointed, Sally.” It came again—the washing, raking sobbing. “I am tired of getting the short end of the stick.”

“You need your joy back,” Sally said pulling Sara to her in an absorbing embrace. “I wanna tell you a secret I learned a long time ago, Baby. There ain’t no short end when you got Jesus. I know you know that, but sometimes it just don’t feel like you know it.” Sara nodded. “Seems to me that some of the people who understand what joy is best know what the WHOLE stick feels like. Like your grandmama’s song, you know stuff in this old life just ain’t right sometimes. All the hurtin’ times—all they do is make us see the hintin’ at the better times comin’. Don’t make sense to people who don’t know Jesus—but them that do, they get it. They get they joy back.”

“I hope so. I want to be like you. I want to hum again.”

“You will, Baby Girl. Jesus—He’ll give you your song back.”

Sara gripped her friend with a clinching embrace, whispering, “I love you, Sally. God is so good to me.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Toni Hammer03/01/14
Man, have I been there. You captured the essence of that pain when something happens that can't be undone so well. And I loved the line about the whole stick. This was inspirational without being maudlin. Well done.
C D Swanson 03/03/14
What a poignant story filled with so much emotion, and also filled with hope.

God bless~